When beloved Wellington group Trinity Roots rallied themselves for a series of reunion concerts in 2010, it became clear that the public weren’t that keen to let them drift away into the fog again. Five years and several small line-up changes later, they unveil their third proper album.
Driven by the core team of Warren Maxwell (lead vocals/guitar), Rio Hemopo (backing vocals/bass) and Ben Wood (backing vocals/guitar/drums), Citizen sees Trinity Roots making it clear that while they were often described as a roots or dub band in their early 2000s heyday, that was never quite the case. Channelling a sound somewhat closer to soulful progressive rock, the ten songs on Citizen ripple with subtle touches of cinematic funk, psychedelica, modern folk and vintage sci-fi synthesiser swirls.
With acclaimed country/rockabilly singer Tami Neilson turning in a stellar performance on ‘Village Man’, and the strident Ria Hall passing through with a kapa haka group on ‘Bully’, Trinity continue their tradition of placing talented female vocalists of the day in starring roles. But best of all, the rich group vocal arrangements and socially sympathetic lyrical touches that characterised their early works are still on display. Old ideas mixed with new blood, sweat and tears.
(Cape Road Recordings)
Drylands, the second album by Auckland-based singer/songwriter Mel Parsons, is the sound of hard outdoor work, rural persistence and an all-defying commitment to songcraft. Detailed by drum tracks that gallop like horses across plains, lush group vocals and Americana/alt-country referencing melodies, Drylands’ 13-song running time sparks with warm humanity.
Working with co-producer Gerry Paul, Mel has crafted a space where elegant head-nod instrumentation sparkles with sing-along storytelling depth. In recent years, she has put considerable effort into touring overseas, while still fitting in an extensive local performance schedule, and it’s paying off. This could be the album that takes her further.
Death and the Maiden
This is certainly something. Short, but perfectly formed, the self-titled debut album of Dunedin darkwave trio Death and the Maiden is an exercise in putting songs into dance music, and dance music into songs. Over shady electronic rhythms, hypnotic after-midnight guitar figures, twitchy synthesisers and syrupy bass lines, lead vocalist Lucinda King deploys her weightless yet resolute singing voice. Floating through lyrical explorations of love and loss, she lets herself drift like a flying drone on surveillance duties in a dystopia not that far away. While singles ‘Dear ____’ and ‘Flowers For the Blind’ will hook most listeners in, you should really stay for the full experience.
Whisper of the Sheba Dawn
(Epic Sweep/Lingering Sound)
In 1982, underground New Zealand music legend Malcolm Pickup released an album titled Whisper of the Sheba Dawn as Mary Briefcase via the extremely obscure New Age Records. While Malcolm had a background in punk rock, the Mary Briefcase project saw him rubbing evocative guitar work (and sometimes reedy vocals) against richly textured sci-fi synthesiser soundscapes.
Tapping into a similar sense of keyboard futurism as that accessed by the likes of Vangelis and Yellow Magic Orchestra, Malcolm’s songs on Whisper of the Sheba Dawn pulse with a noise stance. The album’s recent reissue by Epic Sweep/Lingering Sound is long overdue.